SPECIAL REPORT: A New Hope - Fighting the Opioid Epidemic - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

SPECIAL REPORT: A New Hope - Fighting the Opioid Epidemic

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As the opioid epidemic continues to takes lives and destroy families in Appalachia, many say the issue doesn't discriminate. No matter your age, career, or upbringing, Dr.'s say most people know someone battling addiction.

"Drug addictions are demons and some people have no idea what you fight every day," said 22-year-old Hope Wooten, a Boone County, WV native.

Hope says her history of drug addiction started in high school.

"At first it was fun, but then I had switched on to bigger things because I wasn't getting the high no more," said Hope.

Now, she is one of thousands of West Virginians struggling with an opioid addiction every day.

The crisis is something that is recognized on a national scale. The growing threat is something that brings Dr.'s from across the country to Appalachia with hopes of finding solutions. 

"People tend to look at a problem from high up and then look down. What I do is talk to the users and find out how are they managing this powerful new drug in their life?" said Dr. Dan Ciccarone, a professor at the University of California San Francisco. 

Dr. Dan Ciccarone is currently looking into the harm reduction clinic, also known as the needle exchange program, at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

Hope Wooten is a patient there. She says getting clean needles every week gives her a sense of relief. 

"Self respect, maybe? Purity. It might sound a little bit weird but it just makes you feel safer," said Hope. 

The clinic not only provides users with clean needles and safe storage containers, but makes them feel confident in their choice to come in.

While preventing the spread of Hepatitis and HIV are top priority, employees at the health department  also begin to educate their patients about recovery.

"I've only been on the needle for 7 months and I still think I have enough time to turn around, you know what I mean?" said Hope.

On the other side of addiction treatment, there are dozens of women at Recovery Point Charleston who are turning their lives around.

Most of them are former heroine addicts who found themselves entranced by the drugs powerful draw.

"It is a feeling that you will never forget. It is complete euphoria and that was all it took," said Erica Bragg, a woman who decided to join the Recovery Point program in hopes of changing her life for the better.

While most of the women were previously pushed into programs by loved ones or court orders, they say options for recovery weren't the same a few years ago.

"I went to a 28 day program and that was absolutely nothing like this. Basically they were just like don't use drugs, go to meetings, good luck," said Erica.

Now, programs like Recovery Point are changing the face of addiction treatment. They're counseled by people who have lived through the same exact struggles. Instead of being preached at about their mistakes, they're taught how to think differently and live differently. 

"I give them examples of what happened to me when I was in active addiction. Like how I couldn't stop using drugs even though I wanted to go and see my kids," said Rachel Thaxton, a former addict and the program director at Recovery Point Charleston.

Erica is more than 90 days sober now. She hopes to maintain her sobriety and continue moving towards a healthier life. 

"Honestly? To still be sober, possibly working here as a peer mentor, getting my children back in my life, and just being a contributing member of society again,"

To contact the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department about their harm reduction clinic call (304) 344-5243.

To contact Recovery Point Charleston (Women's facility) call (304) 523-4673.

To contact Recovery Point Huntington (Men's facility) call (304) 523-4673.

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